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Butler wins Horizon League title

Mar 1, 2009 - 12:44 AM INDIANAPOLIS (Ticker) -- On Senior Day, it was a freshman who came up big.

Ronald Nored converted the go-ahead layup with 53 seconds left as 23rd-ranked Butler clinched the Horizon League regular-season title with a 58-56 victory over Cleveland State on Saturday.

Nored's drive to the basket gave the Bulldogs the lead for good at 57-56. He added a free throw with 17 seconds to go for the final margin.

Willie Veasley scored 16 points to lead Butler (25-4, 15-3 Horizon), which posted its second narrow win of the season over Cleveland State after claiming a 50-48 triumph in December.

"That's what I was talking about when I said these guys have intestinal fortitude," said Butler coach Brad Steven, whose team has no seniors.

Butler starts three freshmen and a sophomore.

The Vikings (21-10, 12-6), the preseason favorite in the conference, were led by Norris Cole's 17 points.

Veasley hit a pair of shots from the arc and scored 12 points in the first half, helping the Bulldogs to a 38-32 lead.

Vesley and Matt Howard, who scored 12 points, each had a pair of baskets in an 8-2 run to push the advantage to 50-40 with under 10 minutes remaining.

But the Vikings reeled off the next 12 points, capped by Cedric Jackson's free throw with 4:46 remaining for a 52-50 lead.

It stayed tight down the stretch.

In the closing seconds, the Vikings played for the win, setting up Cole for a 3-pointer. But his shot clanged off the rim and, after Shelvin Mack missed two free throws for Butler, Cole threw up heave from 80 feet as time expired.

Butler won despite making a woeful 2-of-12 free throws in the second half.